One family's diary, journeys and thoughts

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Things of the past

It’s amazing, what you can find in a house that was built 66 years ago and never changed owners. A lot of old things, of course, were replaced over the years with new ones, but little bits and pieces of the past surface every now and then, like reminders of times past.

My grandpa’s shopping bag, for example. It looks like a piece of fisherman’s net with two handles attached. These things probably had some nice formal name, but the common name for them in Russian was “what ifs”. As in, “what if I see something I need in the store today.“ There what ifs could easily fit into one’s pocket or purse and were always there in case something unexpected was being sold somewhere. In Soviet times, it wasn’t a matter of simply going to a store and buying what you want. Certain luxuries, like good sausage, imported shoes, oranges, quality pantyhose, etc. could appear suddenly and in a limited quantities, generating long queues and unhealthy hustle and bustle. Phrases like “one pair per person only” and “you weren’t standing here before” belong to the same time period…

Then, there is my grandpa’s “onion watch” - one you wear at your belt on a chain, a green felt hat and a walking stick. There are brass door handles and cast-iron bars over the ventilation holes in the kitchen. A silver-backed great-grandmother’s mirror. There is a Russian-Armenian dictionary, printed in 1903 (Roxy dubbed it “the Harry Potter book”), a book of Psalms from 1923 and a Housekeeping Encyclopedia from 1957 (my personal favorite advice in it - what kind of soap to use for your hair. It was before the shampoos, you see).

Cool, isn’t it?


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